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6 Momentous Battles In Slavic History That Changed The Course Of Europe

A lot of fallen heroes for the greater good when honor still meant something

Photo: A.K.Bystrov. Alexander Nevskiy. 1985, Oil on canvas, / Metro station in Leningrad

The history of the Slavic people and their nations is full of battles and wars. These are some of them which hold a great significance in history. Some of them are you’ve probably heard of and some you might have not. The order of which the battle will be presented will be chronological.

The Siege of Constantinople in 717-718.

Photo: wikimedia

Most people have probably heard of Battle of Tours also known as the Battle of Poitiers in which Charles Martel and his armies managed to halt the Umayyad Caliphate’s invasion further into Europe. But how many people know of the siege of Constantinople? Prior to the siege itself, the Byzantine empire had lost a number of battle to the Arabs which lead to a loss of territories and the advance of the Umayyad Caliphate which was trying to expand. Fort after fort, city after city they slowly started falling into the hands of the Arabs, which eventually reached the city of kings.

The siege began in the summer of 717. The general agreed number of the Arab forces is around 100,000 soldiers. The byzantine forces defending the city were around 20,000. The city was encircled both by land and by sea.The Arab army was ready for a long siege they had gathered supplies by sacking everything that was in their path. They had even planned for planting crops to harvest for next year of the siege.  The winter of 718 was a harsh one and it forced the attacking army to burn through them. This lead of a huge hunger, the situation was so bad some of them resorted to cannibalism. The Arab fleet was sent to gather more food for the starving soldiers.

The Byzantine emperor Leo III sent a message to the Bulgarian ruler Tervel to ask for his assistance in lifting the siege. Tervel agreed to help and rode with a 20,000 strong army to aid his neighbors. The Arab army wasn’t expecting an attack from it’s back. When the attack began hey were stuck between the castle walls and the advancing Bulgarian army. In that battle Theophanes the Confessor writes that the Bulgarian army managed to kill over 20,000 Arabs and lift the siege.This battle is important part of history because it prevented an Arab invasion of Eastern Europe.

Battle on the Ice 1242

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This battle is pretty famous. It was fought between the army of the famous prince Alexander Nevsky and the armies of the Teutonic Knights and their branch known as the Livonian order. This battle stopped the expanse of the Teutonic order to the east. The battle took place in April 1242. It is estimated that in this battle the Teutonic order had an army of around 3,000 people, while the army of Alexander was close to 5,000.

Alexander’s plan was to trick the knights that he was going to retreat hoping that they will follow him and give chase. Which indeed happened. The knights started chasing the army of Novgorod which was supposedly retreating. This lead to them ending up on the frozen lake Peipus (Today in modern Russia and Estonia). Both armies’  infantries met into a fierce combat which lasted for hours. Alexander saw that the Teutonic army was getting exhausted by the combat and the ice they were on. He ordered his cavalry to charge on both sides and try to engulf the enemy army.

The sight of the advancing cavalry forced the knights to start fleeing. The chronicles tell us that the knights and their allies suffered great losses. This battle resulted in crushing the dreams of the Teutonic order of eastward expansion. It stopped them from retaking key cities and fortresses.

Battle of Kulikovo 1380

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The battle of Kulikovo was between the forces of the Golden horde lead by Mamai and the united Russian forces lead by Dmitri Ivanovich who would later be known as Donski. This battle marks the beginning of the decline of the Golden Horde and the Mongol and the slow and steady rise Moscow’s power. Prior to this battle there was a back and forth exchange of wins and losses for both sides. The battle took place on the Kulikovo field near the river Don. The army of Dmitri consisting of around 50,000 people stood against the 100,000 strong horde of Mamai.

The battle started with a duel between the champions of both armies. Alexander Peresvet engaged Temir-murza. The duel ended up in a draw with both killing each other. History says that even though Alexander Perescvet died, he did not fall from his horse, while Temir-murza fell as he was dying. The battle itself lasted roughly 5 exhausting hours. The Golden horde managed to advance and route the center of the Russian forces. At great cost the united Russian army managed to hold the massive push of the horde.

A surprise attack by the Russian cavalry lead by princes Vladimir and Bobrok collapsed the entire Golden horde line which caused panic and forced them to retreat. Even though Mamai managed to escape the battle he was later assassinated for failing to pay Genoese mercenaries he had hired. The battle marked the beginning of the end for the Golden Horde’s reign, which would come in 1480.

Siege of Szigetvár

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One of the most famous events of Croatian history is the Battle of Siget in 1566, in which Nikola Zrinski was killed defending the fort from the forces of Sultan Sulejman II. Magnificent. Siget (Szigetvár) is a town in today’s southwestern Hungary, which was occupied by Sulejman II in 1566. At the end of July, he crossed river Drava near Osijek, according to some estimates with army made of 90,000 people and 300 cannons, and wanted to go to Eger, a significant fortress in Upper Hungary, where Austrians tried to control Transylvania. Beglerbeg of Rumelia was sent to block Siget, and with the majority of his forces he continued to Mohač.

One successful strike by Zrinski caused Beglerbeg of Rumelia considerable losses, forcing Sulejman to leave his original plan on Eger and to focus with the majority of his forces to Siget, otherwise communication for Buda would be compromised. Armies arrived in front of Siget on August 5, and two days later, siege began. More than 20,000 Turks had fallen during the attacks and almost all of Zrinski’s 2,300 man garrison was killed, with most of the final 600 men killed on the last day. Although the battle was an Ottoman victory, it stopped the Ottoman push to Vienna that year. Vienna was not threatened again until the Battle of Vienna in 1683. The importance of the battle was considered so great that the French clergyman and statesman Cardinal Richelieu was reported to have described it as “the battle that saved civilization”.

Battle of Pločnik

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The battle of Pločnik is important, because it was one of the first victories of the christian troops against the ottoman armies. The battle slowed down the ottoman expanse and showed them that it would not be an easy task to conquer the Balkan region. It was fough tbetween Lazar Hrebeljanović who lead an army of 30,000 and Şahin Bey who lead an army of around 20,000.

The Ottoman army had entered Lazar’s Moravian Serbia. The 20,000 strong ottomans entered Pločnik, but could not detect any signs of an enemy army. The lack of evidence of any Serbian forces that could oppose them, allowed the ottoman soldiers to start looting the village. Only a small part of the army roughly 2,000, commanded by Şahin Bey himself,  stayed back to defend from any possible attack.

The Serbian army took advantage of this, they attacked the ottomans who did not take part of the sacking. After a short skirmish what was left of the 2,000 soldiers was forced to retreat, with Şahin Bey barely escaping. Now the Serbian forces turned their attention towards the looters. The surprise attack devastated the 18,000 ottomans in Pločnik with around 12,000 dying.

Battle of Vienna

Photo: wikimedia

The Battle of Vienna (German: Schlacht am Kahlen Berge or Kahlenberg; Polish: bitwa pod Wiedniem or odsiecz wiedeńska (The Relief of Vienna); Modern Turkish: İkinci Viyana Kuşatması, Ottoman Turkish: Beç Ḳalʿası Muḥāṣarası) took place at Kahlenberg Mountain near Vienna on 12 September 1683[1] after the imperial city had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months.

The battle was fought by the Habsburg Monarchy, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Holy Roman Empire, under the command of King John III Sobieski against the Ottomans and their vassal and tributary states.

The battle marked the first time the Commonwealth and the Holy Roman Empire had cooperated militarily against the Ottomans, and it is often seen as a turning point in history, after which “the Ottoman Turks ceased to be a menace to the Christian world”. In the ensuing war that lasted until 1699, the Ottomans lost almost all of Hungary to the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I.

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